Monday, May 24, 2004

Corny Creationists

The earth is four billion years old. Whether God created it or it popped into existence with the rest of the universe in the Big Bang, it is an ancient body. In its long history, life has evolved from one form to another. Anyone who doesn't think so is going to look pretty foolish trying to prove what they believe. The case of corn, which, ahem, "Revolution against Evolution" believes disproves evolution tickled me.
This is standard issue creationist tactics: find something science once got wrong -- ignoring the millions upon millions of things it has got right -- and claim that this means its whole edifice is wrong.
In this instance the creationists leap upon the fact that scientists once thought -- by observation, one presumes -- maize had evolved from teosinte. Genetic studies show them to be the same species, it seems.
So, says RAE, evolutionists got this one wrong. So... evolution is wrong.
Well, no. Science says, and has to my knowledge always said, that maize was selectively bred from teosinte. It says that they are and always have been the same species. (Actually, maize is a subspecies of one of the five species of teosinte.) Any idea that teosinte was an evolutionary ancestor of maize would most likely have been pre-Darwin.
Even if science had been wrong about maize, wrongly assuming it to have been evolved from teosinte, all this shows is the proper working of the scientific method. Science surrenders its "truths" when the evidence is contrary (sometimes it takes a while to let them go, but it happens). We revise what we "know" in the light of fresh observation, new facts. Religion does not. Its explanations of the world cannot vary. It cannot encompass any more on its thousandth investigation than it did on its first. Above any other thing, I think, this is why I could never adopt a religion. There are just too many things in heaven and earth.

I have been thinking about Genesis, prompted by Stephen Jay Gould, who points out in his book, I have landed, that there are two Creation stories in the Bible. I had never really thought about it, but there clearly are. God creates the earth and things in it in different orders in the first and second chapters of Genesis. Some of the problems can be reconciled, but others definitely are more difficult.

What struck me, though, and it's something I'd like to see one of those "the Bible is true but the word 'yom' can mean 'age' as well as day" types have a go at answering, is that God created plants before he created the sun.

Were they green?


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